Sweden reels after shock suicide bombing in Stockholm

Sweden remained in a state of shock yesterday as police stepped up their investigation into Saturday's potentially devastating "terrorist attack" which caused two explosions to rip through a busy Stockholm shopping district, killing a suspected suicide bomber and injuring two bystanders.

The blasts caused panic among Christmas shoppers in the capital's crowded Drottninggatan shortly before 5pm local time, when a car suddenly blew up. The explosion was followed, within minutes, by a second detonation. Ten minutes earlier a set of emails had warned of the attacks.

"Terrified people were just running in every direction," one eyewitness told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. "There was a lot of smoke and the smell of gunpowder." Another said the bomber had "shouted something in Arabic" before the explosions. Miraculously the two shoppers hurt in the blasts suffered only minor injuries.

Carl Bildt, Sweden's Foreign Minister, said of the attack: "It could have been truly catastrophic." His view was echoed yesterday by Magnus Ranstorp, a Swedish expert on terrorism, who said all the evidence showed that the bomber could easily have caused a "massacre".

Police said the second explosion killed what appeared to be the suicide bomber. An ambulance crew member said the dead man looked as if he had been carrying a device around his stomach which had exploded. Eyewitnesses said they saw him lying on the ground with blood coming from his abdomen.

Unconfirmed media reports said the bomber had been carrying six pipe bombs. They said the cable connecting the devices had broken, which meant only one of the bombs exploded. The bomber was also said to have been carrying a large quantity of nails in a rucksack. Investigators said the first blast was caused by a gas cylinder which had been detonated inside the car.

Anders Thornberg, a spokesman for Sweden's security police, described the blasts as a "very serious terrorist attack". However he said the authorities did not think there was an acute threat of further attacks. "As far as we know this man was working for himself. We are still trying to find out whether others were involved," Mr Thornberg said.

The emails sent to a Swedish news agency minutes before the blasts threatened attacks on Swedes and criticised the country's 500-man military contingent in Afghanistan. Police said they also contained a link to a voice recording which accused the Swedish Government of waging a war against Islam.

The emails described Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist who in 2007 drew a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, as a "pig" and urged all Muslims living in Sweden to "stop sucking up and degrading yourselves". It added: "Now is the time to attack. Do not wait any longer. Come forth with whatever you have even if it is a knife."

Germany's Der Spiegel claimed on its website yesterday to have received information which identified the suicide bomber as a young Iraqi man who was known as a vociferous internet opponent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The man made his views known on online chat forums. It said the Swedish authorities were also assuming that it was he who sent the emails warning of the attacks minutes before carrying them out.

The attacks have caused widespread consternation and shock in Sweden, a country in which terrorist violence is rare. They have the potential to increase growing public hostility towards the country's Muslim population.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Ideal candidates for the role m...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Communications Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 6-month part-time contract (24 hours a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Broker

£12000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Vehicle Broker is req...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific